Casa Bonita in Lakewood, Colorado - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Casa Bonita

At this Denver landmark, the meals are compulsory, the sopapillas are complimentary, and the insanity is everywhere.  

2017
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Do you want to have dinner in a 52,000-square-foot Colorado strip mall replica Mexican village having a “fiesta” amidst gunfights and gorilla hijinx, with puppet shows and caricature artists for good measure? Then you should check out Casa Bonita.

Amazingly enough, Casa Bonita was built in 1974 as part of a chain of Casa Bonitas that started in Oklahoma City. The Lakewood location was the last and most lavish built and thus is the last one standing. The entertainment restaurant was designated a historical landmark by the Lakewood Historical Society in 2015.

The building’s exterior was repainted in 2022 and required over 300 gallons of custom-blended pink paint. The inside boasts themed rooms intended to invoke regional architectural styles across Mexico—Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Guadalajara.

The gleaming pink tower of Casa Bonita juts 85 feet into the air, dwarfing the surrounding suburban Denver commercial properties. The gold-leafed dome atop the tower supports a statue of the last Aztec emperor. The restaurant below can seat 1,000 people at a time and features a holographic monster at the bottom of a wishing well. If that sounds like a lot of incongruous information, just relax and enjoy the ride: you’re at Casa Bonita.

First order your meal, then pick it up on a plastic cafeteria-style tray and head to your table in one of several themed sections (“The Terrace,” “The Vista,” “The Palace,” and so on). Savor your food while imbibing some table magic, fire juggling, or relentless mariachi music. Welcome to life in “The Most Exciting Restaurant in the World.”

Want seconds or thirds while you watch cliff divers somersault from the top of a 30-foot indoor waterfall? Just raise the little flag on your table. Don’t get too full, though, as every meal comes with delicious, pillowy, homemade sopapillas that were created with a recipe specifically designed for the altitude of Colorado. Also—everyone over the age of two is required to purchase a meal. Hey, you can’t enter El Dorado for free, amigos. 

After you’re done eating, explore Black Bart’s Haunted Cave—IF YOU DARE!—take some old-timey cowboy photos, and get your skee ball on. Watch some more cliff diving. Help the Sheriff bust Black Bart himself for pinching sopapillas.

In June 2023, Casa Bonita reopened under new ownership. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, purchased the restaurant in 2021 and spent nearly $40 million on a massive renovation of the property.

Know Before You Go

While beta-testing Casa Bonita, the opening will have limited dinner hours. Guests will be pulled exclusively from the restaurant email list for timed, ticketed entries. Each ticket includes an entrée, a soft drink, and sopapillas. Alcoholic beverages and other items are available for purchase at an additional cost. No walk-ins. You can sign up here.

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